How Having Cancer Made Me Realize That Wellbeing Is About More Than Just My Physical Health

Getting connected to your soul, and your purpose will help drive everything in your life. Our relationships shape how we see the world, how we behave, and the experiences we choose to engage in.
01/25/2016 11:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

People always ask me, "So how did you get into all this wellbeing stuff?"

When I was 5 years old, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was around Thanksgiving time. I was losing my appetite and losing weight. I started wheezing a lot and it was hard to breathe. I went from being a highly energetic kid, to asking my dad to carry me through the grocery store because I was too tired to walk. So after my parents took me to the doctor multiple times insisting that something was very wrong, they finally took an x-ray and saw a tumor on my lungs.

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I was rushed to the emergency room. I went through the typical process that any cancer survivor can attest to - had several rounds of chemo, lost all of my hair, got blood transfusions, spinal taps etc. I was taken out of kindergarten, and had to be taught at home in order to avoid germs. I can remember what the anesthesia smelled like, and can still picture my family members crying when they first heard the news.

However, despite the hardships, my immune system was strong. The doctors said it was a miracle when both of my sisters came down with the chicken pox, and I never did. On top of that, my body was very receptive to the treatments. They thought my little body would need a rest between each round, but it didn't. I progressed very quickly. In fact, I finished my treatments faster than any patient (with my illness) that they had ever seen at Westchester County Medical Center and my case got documented.

So when I was old enough to reflect on my experience, I became fascinated by how differently I perceived my illness at my older age than when I did when I was just a little kid. I talked to my mom and dad about everything that had happened and it all sounded so serious and scary.... And yet as a kid, I never felt scared. In fact, I was barely ever sad... and I have the home videos to prove it. I was usually hanging upside down on the monkey bars, dancing in the living room, or running around the house with my sis.

This is when I realized that there is something very important about our mind and our spirit when it comes to our overall health. In fact, I began to believe it was even MORE important. And I started to wonder how I could continue to have the same, matter of fact, in the moment, enthusiastic attitude of a kid... no matter how old I got. I also realized that there were other factors at play that contributed to my recovery... my extremely attentive and loving parents, my sister Jaime who was always making me laugh, and a supportive, close-nit community and school system. All of this played a role in keeping my spirits high, and a healthy spirit creates a healthy body.

Now, I don't know for sure if this is why I got better... but when Gallup came out with research on the 5 Essential Elements of Wellbeing, namely Purpose, Social, Financial, Physical and Community wellbeing... I felt validated. The research explained how important it is for human beings to have a sense of purpose, feel mentally stimulated, have healthy relationships, and strong communities. Again, physical health was just a part of a much bigger equation.

THIS IS WHEN I REALIZED THAT NO ONE REALLYYYY KNOWS WHAT WELLBEING MEANS. (EXCEPT, MAYBE DEEPAK CHOPRA ;))

This word wellbeing... it gets used everywhere. And whenever I mention it in conversation, normally people automatically think... yoga, meditation, exercise, diet... oh, and kale. And this is soooooo NOT what wellbeing is about. At least not when I say it.

I mean, it's important, and I am definitely an advocate of eating clean and being healthy. But my real interest lies in having people know about the other stuff. See, your overall quality of life.... your sense of vitality, and that feeling of aliveness comes from a deeper place - that some might call "the soul."

So now, a huge part of my mission is to help people realize that these other areas of our lives deserve just as much attention as our diet, if not more. Getting connected to your soul, and your purpose will help drive everything in your life. Our relationships shape how we see the world, how we behave, and the experiences we choose to engage in. And perhaps one of the most important things of all is shaping our mindset, our perception... training ourselves to truly love our lives exactly as they are, without comparing to others. Training ourselves to pause, take time to reflect, and think about what's truly important to us so that we can be sure that we are not living someone else's life.

So THIS is what I mean by wellbeing. And this is what Deepak and I will address in our course in New York City on Feb 6th 2016.